ELON — Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration, visited Elon University on Friday to talk about her life, career and working for President Donald Trump.
“A lot of people have asked how I was able to leave the administration unscathed — and the answer is I told the president the truth,” said Haley, a Republican who was the governor of South Carolina when Trump nominated for the U.N. post.
At Elon University’s fall convocation, the audience was mostly older adults, though there were also some students.
Haley said her role as a Cabinet member was to advise.
“We never had a conflict,” she said. “He always heard me out. It didn’t mean I won all the time, but he always heard me out and had a conversation on it.
“Life is easier when you tell the truth,” she said.
Haley was South Carolina’s governor from 2011 to 2017 and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. from 2017 until she resigned in late 2018.
She recently moved back to South Carolina, fueling speculation that she may run for office again, The Associated Press reported. Haley is also promoting her new book, “With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace,” with several stops on the East Coast.
The book title references her comment to a White House official — “with all due respect, I don’t get confused” — when the White House suggested she was “confused” when she announced Russian sanctions that didn’t go into effect.
On Friday, she answered pre-submitted questions from Elon students, asked by Greensboro’s Aldona Wos, a former head of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, a former U.S. ambassador to Estonia and an Elon donor.
Haley said it’s important to understand that “Russia will never be our friend, ever be our friend.”
“Their power comes from causing chaos,” she said. She also said the United States’ biggest threat now is Iran while the biggest long-term threat is China. During her tenure as ambassador, Haley said, taking the U.S. out of the Human Rights Council was “one of the best things we did, but it was highly unpopular.”
Haley said being the U.N. ambassador made her appreciate the “peacefulness of democracies.”
“America isn’t perfect. I know that. ... I grew up a brown girl in a black and white world,” Haley said, talking about her childhood in Bamberg, S.C., where her father wore a Sikh turban and her mother wore a sari. She was born in South Carolina to an Indian American family.
Haley said there should be more freedom of expression, especially on college campuses.
Elon freshmen Avani Kodali and Julie Hoffmeister, both 18, said they thought Haley had interesting things to say. Kodali said she didn’t know much about Haley before attending her speech.
“It was really interesting, her points as to how Russia uses chaos as their power,” Kodali said. “I thought she didn’t sugar coat it.”
Hoffmeister, who will be voting in a presidential election for the first time in 2020, said she would like a woman to be president and would consider Haley as a candidate if she runs in the future.